‘They really are risking their lives’: Crews battle Brian Head Fire on 33,000 acres

Posted at 9:33 PM, Jun 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-23 23:35:09-04

SOUTHERN UTAH -- Crews working the Brian Head Fire said Friday that firefighters risked their lives to save dozens of cabins and homes in the Panguitch Lake area.

The fast-moving, erratic blaze is proving it's not one to be tamed.

The 33,000 acre fire has burned down more than a dozen cabins and several outbuildings. Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins said they've evacuated 600 homes in the area of the fire.

"It's just going in a lot of different directions, it's really a mess," he said. "This is a devastating fire."

That's apparent in the Clear Creek area, where most of the cabins caught fire.

The ground was white, ashy and still burning around homes on Friday. Rubble of what used to be family cabins sat charred and smoldering.

"There's nothing," Sheriff Perkins said. "It looks like doomsday."

Some of the cabins, he said, had been standing for generations. Years of memories burned to the ground.

"Their heart and souls are in these places. Their DNA is in the ground," Perkins said of the families who owned the cabins. "You see their places destroyed, it's heart wrenching."

Shayne Ward, spokesperson for the Brian Head Fire, said fire crews gave it their all to save every building and have been working around the clock to protect areas with homes.

"They really are risking their lives," he said.

Firefighters were successful in most instances, stopping the flames in their tracks just feet away from buildings.

"The flame front was pushing 100-plus foot flames, and these guys were just sitting there trying to save these homes," he said. "They were real close to the point where they were having to shield their eyes and stuff from the flames. That's pretty crazy stuff. These guys are doing everything they can to save the community."

The fire didn't let up, however, and continued aggressively chewing through forest in different directions.

At a command staging post next to Panguitch Lake, crews suddenly had to leave for safer territory Friday evening after the blaze began moving toward them.

"The fire's just getting a little too close for comfort," Ward said.

The city of Panguitch, which is a few miles away from the fire, has not been evacuated.

As the Fox 13 News crew was also exiting the command staging post, they were re-routed from Highway 143 onto a dirt road to leave the area because a different section of the fire moved too close to the highway.

"It's an aggressive, fast-moving fire" Ward said. "We've seen a lot of extreme fire behavior out of it. You just got to be on your toes."